Miniatures by Christina Kenton
My earliest memory with miniatures is when I was about 6 years old. I had a miniature teapot and mugs and I used to fill them with real tea.
I started making lighter covers about 10 years ago and they slowly grew into sculptures about 6 years ago. My obsession with miniatures started around 2 years ago and now they are very present in most of my pieces.
Can you trace back your fascination with lighters to a particular moment or memory?
The reason I use lighters is because I used to smoke outside, and my lighter would get cold and wouldn’t work, so I started sewing slip covers for my lighters. Then, I started decorating the covers and then the covers grew into sculptures.
The first lighter sculpture I made was for my husband about 6 years ago; it’s a horse and we still have it. It shows my early stages of experimenting. It’s just a plastic horse that’s not hand painted and doesn’t stand up. But when I got the idea to make it, I got really excited.
What about outsider art speaks to you?
Outsider art is what my art is considered because I am self taught. Outsider art makes me feel like the way I make things is an actual art form. I don’t follow any particular techniques or rules, but it’s still considered art and I enjoy making it and some people enjoy looking at it.
Are your lighter sculptures for sale?
I do sell the lighter sculptures, but not too often. They take a long time to make, so I try to make a bunch and submit them to be considered for art shows. I have been really lucky in the last few years to have been a part of some great group shows, and have had a solo show in Vancouver, BC.
I was thinking about about this the other day! I think I have made close to 250 lighter sculptures, and as of now I have 76 at home. I do have favorites that I would not sell or that I spent a lot time on, executing a specific idea.
My favorite miniature lighter sculpture is a 2-piece: first there’s a two-headed sheep balancing a house of cards on its head and second, there’s a sheep body on a table showing a spread of cards. I remember the idea and exactly how I pictured it and it’s one of the pieces I could not recreate. It was so hard to translate from my head, but in the end, it turned out better than I could have imagined.
What materials do you use in your work?
Some of the materials I use are pillow cases that I sew the lighter covers out of, sometimes I use styrofoam balls, animal figures, lots of paper towels, shoe goo, paint, and miniatures. Basically mixed media.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your work with miniature lighter sculptures?
The most challenging aspect of my work is probably finding the time. I work pretty much full time and make these sculptures in most of my free time. I have so many ideas and sometimes I just feel bummed out that I can’t just make these sculptures all day long. Other than that, it’s sitting for long periods of time on my days off. I can easily sit for 7 or more hours to hand paint a print.
Do all of your lighters contain fluid? Can you turn them all on?
All the lighters are fully functionally and replaceable.
I haven’t worked with any really small lighters, but I have worked with jumbo lighters. I have three sculptures presently composed of jumbo lighters.
Artists or designers you look up to?
My grandfather Ladislav Guderna was a great surrealist painter. I have always looked up to him and I am always inspired by his amazing artwork. Some other artists I am inspired by are Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon, and Banksy. Also the website Dollhouse Heaven (where I purchase my miniatures) is full of inspiration. I can easily get lost there for hours.
I was told about Frances Glessner Lee awhile ago and found her really interesting. She would recreate dioramas of actual crime scenes for studies of unexplained death investigations. I have a huge fascination with true crime and forensics so these are two things together that I feel really close to.
What advice would you give to new artists?
Make art the way you want to and always like doing it. For me, I want to always paint and I always want to look forward to working on something new. I never want it to feel like it’s a job or I have to do it. It took me a really long time to get into shows after tons of submissions, I lucked out and was a part of some really great openings with some really great artists. Don’t get discouraged. Make art because you want to, even if no one end up seeing it.
I have three favorite miniatures in my collection. The first is a tiny porcelain pair of false teeth. The second is a shrimp cocktail, and the third is a pair of yellow gloves. I still don’t know how they exist!
What is the most memorable miniature you have ever seen by another artist?
What is the most memorable sculpture you have ever seen by another artist?
What is your hope for the field of miniatures?
It didn’t take me very long to get obsessed with miniatures, and I feel once I was in that world, I got in deep. I hope miniaturists just keep creating and putting their art out there. It’s the only way to get people excited.
What would you like to see replicated in miniature that you have not yet seen?
A miniature that I would like to see replicated is one of my lighter sculptures. I don’t think that will happen, but who knows. And scratch and win tickets but I have a feeling that may already exist.
What’s next to come from Christina Kenton of @crabtina?
Upcoming projects include more scenes, more bedroom type themes, and phobia themes. I want to work with more miniature mirrors, miniature plugs, and miniature roses. I usually get ideas before I fall asleep, and I get bored easily so I try not do the same thing too long. No upcoming shows, but I have submissions floating around. I might possibly look into an online store like Big Cartel because people contact me about available sculptures. So, I might look into selling some online in the near future.
Other activities and hobbies you enjoy? Anything else you would like to add?
From early on I’ve always wanted to paint and make things constantly. I work at a simple job that pays my rent and allows me to paint on a daily basis. I may never make enough money off my art to live, but I can’t imagine going through life not doing what I love. This makes me happy and if other people enjoy it, then that’s a huge bonus.